Just when we thought we were recovering from the hectic frenzy of Ganapati celebrations, the Navaratri celebrations have begun and how! Navaratri is like the name suggests, a 9-day celebration in honour of Goddess Durga, or Adi Shakti. It is celebrated all over the country with equal zeal and enthusiasm.
Hindu mythologies are full of varying versions of the same stories, yet they all reach the same outcome – the celebration of good over evil. For example, different parts of the country celebrate Navaratri puja for different reasons. In eastern and southern India, this festival is celebrated as Durga puja, to celebrate her vanquishing the demon Mahishasura and emerging victorious. In the northern and western states, it’s celebrated to mark the victory of Lord Rama over the asura king Ravana.
The nine forms of the goddess are worshipped on each of these days. They also represent the nine phases of the life of the goddess. Here’s a quick guide to the nine forms of the goddess.
Day 1 of Navaratri: Ma Shailaputri
Ma Shailaputri, daughter of the God of Mountains, is worshipped on the first day of Navaratri. Also popularly known as Parvati in her later incarnation, Ma Shailaputri had in her earlier incarnation as Sati defied her father (king Daksha) and married Shiva, an ascetic. When Daksha humiliates her and Shiva, she jumps into the yagna fire and immolates herself. In her next birth, Sati is born as Ma Shailaputri and is worshipped for her strength and glories.
Day 2 of Navaratri: Ma Brahmacharini
Ma Brahmacharini, who is worshipped on the second day of Navaratri, teaches us penance and devotion. In her incarnation as Parvati, she undertakes severe penance to be able to marry Shiva in her present birth. Her extreme and severe penance convinces Shiva that her love is pure and true, and he accepts her as his wife.
Day 3 of Navaratri: Ma Chandraghanta
Ma Chandraghanta is worshipped on the third day of Navaratri. When Shiva reaches the palace to marry Parvati, he arrives in the most terrorising form. His marriage procession has the most unlikely of participants like the ghouls, ghosts, ganas, aghoris and even ascetics. Parvati’s family is left shocked and scared on watching this assembly. It is then that Parvati transforms into Chandraghanta, a form of the Shakti, and convinces Shiva to appear in a more acceptable form. The day they get married is celebrated as Mahashivaratri.
Day 4 of Navaratri: Ma Kushamanda
Ma Kushamanda is worshipped on the fourth day of Navaratri. She is believed to be the source of the energy in the universe. Her name means the creator of the universe. In this form, the goddess is happy and exudes radiance and warmth, thus filling the dark spaces with light.
Day 5 of Navaratri: Ma Skandamata
Ma Skandamata, as the name suggests, is the mother of Skanda, another form of Kartikeya, son of Parvati. Ma Skandamata is worshipped on the fifth day of Navaratri as a mother of a gifted child. Skanda, or Kartikeya, was blessed by the gods with immense intelligence. When worshipping Ma Skandamata, Lord Kartikeya is also worshipped sitting on his mother’s lap.
Day 6 of Navaratri: Ma Katyayani
Ma Katyayani, worshipped on the sixth day of Navaratri, is the fiery warrior who cannot be defeated. She was born with the combined blessings of Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma and is an incarnation of Durga. She defeated Mahishasura, an asura blessed by gods that no man could kill him. Ma Katyayani vanquished him and hence is also known as Mahishasuravardini.
Day 7 of Navaratri: Ma Kaalaratri
Ma Kaalratri, more famously known as Kaali, is the one who destroys darkness or ignorance. She is also called Chamunda because she had killed the two demons Chanda and Munda. Many interesting stories abound about this fearsome form of Durga. Kaali is worshipped on the seventh day of Navaratri.
Day 8 of Navaratri: Ma Mahagauri
Ma Mahagauri is worshipped on the eighth day of Navaratri. She is worshipped as the goddess of kindness. After all the killings as Kaalratri, she cleanses her body in the holy waters of Ganga (in some stories it’s the sacred lake Manasarovar) and comes out pure and white. That’s the reason the Kanya-puja is done on the eighth day.
Day 9 of Navaratri: Ma Siddhidatri
In ‘Nine Forms of Durgas’, Devdutt Pattanaik says that in the final form as Siddhidatri, she blesses Shiva not just with the eight siddhis but also with the remaining ten siddhis. This resulted in her taking her rightful place as one-half of Shiva’s body. This half-female – half-male form of Shiva is called Ardhnareshwar. She completes him and this becomes her greatest accomplishment, that of connecting Shiva to the worldly life.
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